July 13

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago today?

Providence Gazette (July 13, 1771).

“Just arrived in the Tristram, Captain Shand, from London, a fine Assortment of Hard Ware and other GOODS.”

In the summer of 1771, the partnership of Nicholas, Joseph, and Moses Brown informed retailers in Providence and surrounding towns that they carried “a fine Assortment of Hard Ware and other GOODS, which they will sell on the lowest Terms, by Wholesale.”  The merchants also indicated that they imported their inventory from London aboard the Tristram, a ship that recently arrived in port.  In so doing, they followed a custom adopted by many other purveyors of goods who placed newspaper advertisements in the eighteenth century.

The two advertisements immediately above the Browns’ notice in the July 13, 1771, edition of the Providence Gazettealso made reference to the Tristram.  Edward Thurber proclaimed that he sold “A Good Assortment of HARD WARE and PIECE GOODS” imported from London “in the Snow Tristram, Captain Shand.”  Similarly, Joseph Russell and William Russell had in stock “A VERY large and neat Assortment of English Goods, Ironmongery, Brasiery, Cutlery, Haberdashery, [and] Stationary” that they received from London “in the Ship Providence, and in the Snow Tristram.”

In their advertisement, Lovett and Greene promoted “A NEAT Assortment of English, East and West India GOODS.”  They also declared that they “Just imported” their merchandise, but they did not list the vessels that transported the goods across the Atlantic.  Neither did Robert Nesbitt, who asserted that he sold “an Assortment of Goods … immediately imported from Ireland.”  Most advertisements ran for several weeks and some for several months, making it more difficult for prospective customers to assess what “Just imported” or “immediately imported” meant when not stated in connection with vessels that arrived from other ports.  Thurber, the Russells, and the “COMPANY” formed by the Browns, on the other hand, provided valuable information that readers could compare to either the shipping news that ran elsewhere in the newspaper or general knowledge about when vessels arrived in port.  A detail that may seem quaint by modern standards revealed important context for prospective customers in the eighteenth century.

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